Viva la Vida – Part 3

Viva la Vida – Part 3

Viva la Vida – Part 3

Man Controlling the Universe

All images in this post are galleries you can swipe through except the volcano.

On my first full day, after waking up early and working all morning and into the early afternoon (gotta pay for the trip!) I left to go find a late lunch at a little vegetarian/vegan lunch place downtown and walk to the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

The lunch place was on a side street near the Alameda Square, but it was its own little world. It took me a little bit to find, because it was inside a building and up some stairs. It was so cute inside, full of bright oranges and yellows. The people were really friendly and warm. It felt like i was eating at someone’s grandma’s house. All along the street were shops full of little motors and odd pieces of hardware. It appeared they were mostly repairing appliances in this zone. Clearly people fix things here instead of tossing it and buying a new one. We need to bring this back in the US.

Click on the arrows to see more pictures

Alameda Square

The life around the Alameda Central Square is vibrant. The streets are full of people, lots of street vendors, stores and people performing. The jacaranda trees were in full bloom. Purple petals fluttered down. It felt so alive.

Click on the arrows to see more pictures

Man Controlling the Universe

Inside the Palacio I saw Diego Rivera’s mural El Hombre Controlador del Universo (Man Controlling the Universe). I sat and looked at it for a long time. There’s so much going on. 

A blonde blue-eyed man sits at the controls of an unknown machine, wearing an expression of trepidation. A larger than life hand reaches out of the machine holding an orb. Underneath the machine and below all of the human activity are plants and food crops, roots visible, struggling to survive under the weight of everything above. The man seems to be attempting to control the forces both macro and micro of nature and the universe. It’s a most prescient work of art. 

He’s surrounded by a wide array of people and includes some familiar faces, Darwin, Lenin, Marx, Trotsky, and others. Figures wearing gas masks loom at the top left side. Communist armies and workers are in the top right. Powerful forces converging all together. It was created at a time of building global tension. Hitler was coming to power in Germany and putting forth the toxic ideal of the Ubermensch, which is seemingly referenced in the central figure. It is implied that there is culpability for the potential destruction from attempting to exert control over the forces of nature.

It visualizes the impact of great scientific discovery but leaves unresolved the underlying question of if those discoveries will be productive or destructive. The knowledge that some of it is out of human control (the hand and the orb) is clear and underlying is the subtext of man’s hubris. He also was contrasting grandiose, luxurious materialism (capitalism) on the left versus ethical ideals, and the collective efforts of the people (communism) on the right.

Click on the arrows to see more pictures

Man at the Crossroads

Diego completed the first version of this mural, Man at the Crossroad, in NYC. He was commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller to paint it. Rockefeller objected to the inclusion of Lenin and Trotsky and demanded that they be removed from the painting. Diego refused, so Rockefeller had the mural destroyed. 

Rivera then convinced the Mexican government to pay for him to recreate it at the Palacio, communist figures and all. Diego and Frida were lifelong communists, even though Diego was kicked out of the Communist Party in the USA for working with capitalists Ford and Rockefeller. Leon Trotsky was their house guest after he was exiled from the USSR. Their ideals and social ethics were strong.

The Palace of Beautiful Arts

While this mural commands the stage, the whole building is full of murals, ornamental building details and art, all worthy of reflexion. I took my time and explored.

Click on the arrows to see more pictures

Patrimonio

In the rotunda at the top there was an exhibit called “Patrimonio”, featuring works by Santiago Arau, focusing on aerial views of the city and explanations about the geologic history, volcanoes and history of civilization in CDMX. It was a incredible introduction to help understand the place I was just beginning to explore. There I learned about how the valley was created and how many of the hills surrounding the city were extinct volcanoes. The lava builds and forms a volcano, then that one goes extinct and the lava chamber moves and creates another one in a different place. Popocatepetl, is the current active one.

Click on the arrows to see more pictures

Photos by Santiago Arau from the exhibit “Patrimonio.”

Photos by Santiago Arau from the exhibit “Patrimonio.”

The exhibit also explained how that the Spanish took apart the temples at the center of Tenochtitlan and used the parts to build a Catholic Cathedral. 

A primary sculpture of Quetzalcoatl, the most important god of the Aztecs was built over, it’s head encased  underneath a colonial building. Trapped, the remnants of the Aztec culture, boiling underneath everything like lava below a volcano, waiting for the moment of resurgence. The center of the ancient city was paved and became Zocolo square in a show of Spanish culture asserting dominance over the native Aztecs.

Cultures Merging

The exhibit and the story of what happened to the Mexica people was so powerful and moving. Wherever I went after this exhibit I saw and felt the living culture of the Aztecs. The two cultures merged in a violent explosive way, creating something entirely different in the aftermath. This clash is the DNA that propels the country as it evolves. There has been much oppression and subjugation, there is much healing to be done.

One of the works that struck me the hardest was Thomas Kole’s 3D visualization of Mexico City before the Spanish arrived. It was one of the largest cities in the world of its time, with over 300,000 residents. The city looked so beautifully organized and was in the middle of a gorgeous high altitude lake. Around the islands they had chinampas, floating gardens where they grew food. When I saw the picture I had a greater understanding of what had been lost in the conquest and I could feel how tragic that was.

Click on the arrows to see more pictures

A Swirl of Images

My mind swirling with an intense absorbing of ideas I walked over to the see the Cathedral that replaced the temples that were destroyed and through Zocalo Square where shaman were cleansing and treating ill people, native dancers were performing and crafts people were selling their wares in big tents. Whistles making the snarling sounds of jaguars pierced the air like specters from the past, reminders of wild ancient nature. That was a lot for one day, and I was going to the Pyramid of Sun and Moon in the morning, so I headed back for a swim.

Written by jennalex

Artist and designer who explores the relationship between the natural world and the digital world and aims to create art and design that expands people's consciousness and creates meaningful experiences.

May 13, 2024